Beneficiation the future of SA's diamond industry

Gauteng Premier David Makhura, during his address at De Beers Consolidated Mines in Johannesburg. (Photo: Lameez Omarjee)
Gauteng Premier David Makhura, during his address at De Beers Consolidated Mines in Johannesburg. (Photo: Lameez Omarjee)

Johannesburg – The sun has not yet set on South Africa’s mining industry, according to Gauteng Premier David Makhura, in his address at De Beers Consolidated Mines office on Wednesday.

De Beers, in partnership with government and Anglo American Zimele, launched its Diamond Enterprise Development Project for South Africa. The project will facilitate growth and transformation and create employment in the diamond beneficiation industry.

“We are a post-mining economy. But mining is still not the sunset,” said Makhura. The mining industry in the Gauteng province employs over 35 000 people, and it contributes R40bn to the province's economy. “Mining houses will continue to mine for the next 30 years,” he said.

Makhura explained that beneficiation is an important sector in the economy. African mineral resources are mined and exported as raw materials, which are turned into “beautiful things”, often unaffordable to buy back, he said. Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources Godfrey Oliphant shared his sentiments. “We need to get the best out of our mineral endowment,” he said.

The OR Tambo jewellery precinct is an infrastructure being developed for mineral beneficiation, which will support beneficiation and diamond trading. “We need to put up infrastructure for mineral beneficiation to add value to export materials, create jobs and deepen industrialization of the country and the continent,” explained Makhura.

Even though the global mining industry is experiencing a downward cycle, Oliphant was optimistic that the cycle would not continue forever. “In the meantime, we need to get basics in place for long-term success,” he said. It is a concern that India and Botswana had overtaken South Africa in diamond beneficiation, despite South Africa having vast diamond resources, he added.

“It is important to establish beneficiation centres,” said Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers Group of Companies. There is an opportunity in South Africa to become global competitors in diamond beneficiation. With diamond production declining, another game player is needed, and that is where diamond beneficiation comes in, he explained. “Beneficiation is the right thing to do strategically for the industry and for South Africa,” he said.

Five historically disadvantaged South African diamond cutting and polishing companies have been selected to participate in the project. They will receive support and business training from Raizcorp. CEO Allon Raiz told Fin24 that the plan is to create a sustainable platform for more entrepreneurs to join in future.

The programme will take a holistic approach and support entrepreneurs through funding and mentorship, and by giving them access to rough diamonds, added Barend Petersen, chairperson of De Beers Consolidated Mines.

AUDIO: Entrepreneurs share what the beneficiation project means for their businesses

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